The "White Peony" of Tea
Bai Mu Dan, "white peony," is a white tea with a specific composition known as "three whites," or one hairy bud and two small delicate leaves with visible down, a standard difficult to harvest. Careful handling of the leaves is essential so as not to bruise and damage them, which would result in uneven coloring. Indeed, great attention to detail is required to stay true to this tea's unique composition, and probably what makes it somewhat, though not entirely, rare. From there, the leaves develop their vibrant flavor and color while withering in the shade over several days. This is followed by low-temperature baking, further enhancing a distinct sweet, delicate floral aroma and taste. As refreshing as Spring in bloom!
For tea experts and aficionados, Fuding and Zhenghe in Fujian are the areas most known for Bai Mu Dan. If a so-called Bai Mu Dan has a bud and a single leaf, not two, or a mixture of both compositions, it is not a true Bai Mu Dan but considered a lesser grade for its appearance alone.
I look for beauty in the leaves and one to two leaves to each bud. A vibrant rather than dull color is essential, but the excitement must be carried through right down to the last sip. In my search for true Bai Mu Dan, I have discovered many other interesting and tasty white teas. Not all come from Fuding. In fact, many of the tea producing regions of China now offer their own white tea including their version of "white peony," the terroir alone offering a different yet solid appearance and taste, resulting in a product that is worth serious consideration.
The 2017 Bai Mu Dan pictured here is not from Fuding, but from a different area in Fujian. I will admit that it is one of the most beautiful I've come across in this style of tea to date. We've sold out of our Fuding White Peony, but I'm considering this one, which has a beautiful quality all around and is very well priced and inexpensive considering the work that goes into this purely handcrafted tea. Last but not least, there's something sweet about this "white peony." It reminds me of a newborn baby cooing, which immediately brings on a smile. A bit much? Nah... when it's really good, it's all of that and more. But for now, I'll keep digging and tasting a few more batches before making a decision, if I am to carry Bai Mu Dan at all this season.